Federal funding has been allocated to the further development of a new ‘smart window’ created at Griffith University’s Centre for Clean Environment and Energy. Designed to facilitate more energy-efficient buildings, the new window utilises a glass that can change its colour and the amount of light or heat transmitted. One of the principle aims is to reduce dependence on HVAC systems.

The federal funding of $500,000 will be used by the university to create low-cost and scalable synthesis methods for functional nanomaterials that make smart windows work. The faculty will also explore commercialisation options for the new windows by integrating new materials into large-scale glass manufacturing.

Lead researcher on the smart window project, professor Huijin Zhao, observes that the development will not only benefit residential buildings, but also office buildings, hotels, and schools where HVAC and lighting systems account for more than 70 per cent of total energy consumption.

Zhao explains that the ease of energy exchange through conventional windows can be almost ten times that of insulated walls. This energy wastage can account for more than 50 per cent of the energy consumed for HVAC, especially in summer and winter.

According to Zhao, a key objective of the project is to facilitate widespread adoption of energy-saving smart windows, reduce pressure on the rising energy demand, and contribute to the goal of a sustainable working and living environment.

He foresees a greater role for smart windows in building automation and energy management, based on advances in materials science and the 'Internet of Things'. He adds that smart windows can offer several dynamic functions such as self-cleaning, thermochromics and solar harvesting, as well as user-controlled functions such as heating, electrochromics, and interactive display.